This is what it's all been building to. Five years ago, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning reintroduced the world to Nova, the embodiment of intergalactic policing organization known as the Nova Corps, and a soldier in the war against threats to the universe. Three years ago, Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord, recruited Nova and a diverse array of cosmic heroes to form the Guardians of the Galaxy, who guarded not only the galaxy, but realms beyond. And now, Nova, Star-Lord, and several of their teammates have given everything in a cataclysmic final battle. They're gone, but their dream is not, nor are the multitude of threats remaining among the stars. With his last words, Star-Lord summed up the dire situation: "[The universe] is going to need flarking annihilators!" Well, now it's got them. I spoke with Dan and Andy about the Annihilators, the powerhouse new team with a mandate to annihilate threats to our universe.
Matt Adler: How did the Annihilators come about?
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning: Marvel wanted us to do something to follow up The Thanos Imperative, and we thought we’d take the cosmic stuff up a gear. A “Galaxy Class” cosmic team was something we’d been thinking about for a long time.
MA: As those who read the Thanos Imperative: Devastation one-shot know, the roster consists of Silver Surfer, Gladiator of the Shi'ar, Beta Ray Bill, Quasar, and Ronan the Accuser of the Kree. How did you settle on these characters to make up the team?
DnA: They were all BIG hitters, all very powerful (SO powerful, in fact, it seemed like there would only be room for them on the same team in space). They also seemed to represent the major powers and interests of the Marvel Cosmic geopolitical map.
MA: How will the Annihilators differ from the Guardians of the Galaxy, your previous cosmic team?
DnA: It’s scale. They have precisely the same remit. In fact, the Annihilators are taking up the legacy of the Guardians. Star-Lord had the right idea – a team to protect the Galaxy, but all he could recruit was valiant misfits and renegades. Even so, they proved their worth, and many died doing it. The Annihilators are the big hitters he would have recruited if he’d had the pull.
MA: A lot of major cosmic characters were killed off during the Thanos Imperative and the issues that led up to it, including Drax the Destroyer, Adam Warlock, Phyla-Vell, Star-Lord, and Nova. Was that sort of a deck-clearing effort in preparation for the Annihilators?
DnA: Not really, though that story paved the way for this. The loss of characters was simply part of the drama, and showed had high the stakes were.
MA: Did it take those deaths to convince these big guns their involvement was needed? Surely Nova and Warlock could be considered heavy hitters in their own right, so their demise must have weighed heavily on this decision.
DnA: Absolutely. In Devastation, we saw how the actions of the Guardians during the Thanos event, and the sacrifice of Star-Lord and Nova, created a legacy that the "big hitters" found hard to ignore.
MA: During the Thanos Imperative, there was a promo image showing what was close to the eventual Annihilators roster, calling them "The Galaxy's Mightiest Heroes". Was there discussion about giving them a more explicit connection to Earth's Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers?
DnA: Kind of. We mainly wanted to establish the idea that the Annihilators were the cosmic equivalent of the Avengers – the biggest and best. Making them an actual Avengers off-shoot would have been harder.
MA: The major threat the Annihilators will be facing in their first outing is the Dire Wraiths, and they'll be getting help from some folks who have experience dealing with that particular alien menace, namely the Spaceknights. Were you guys fans of Rom back in the day, and how much will you be able to do with these characters, given the rights limitations?
DnA: Yes, we were. Due to current trademarks, we’re unable to show or mention Rom by name, but we’re doing everything the rights will allow.
MA: Given Gladiator's role here, any plans to follow-up with the X-Men team we last saw in War of Kings?
DnA: It’s always a possibility.
MA: This series pairs you with artist Tan Eng Huat. What's it like to work with him?
DnA: Tan is a superb artist, and he’s bringing a great feel to the story: great character work but also amazing and huge visuals.
MA: As a second feature in this series, we'll also be getting the eagerly awaited Rocket Raccoon/Groot story. What can you tell us about that?
DnA: Talk about value for money, eh? This second feature explores the other end of the cosmic scale, the aftermath of the Guardians' disbanding. The art, by Tim Green, is wonderful, and it’s a properly funny, exciting story that, while played for laughs in many places, is serious and significant, and explores the origins of both Rocket and Groot.
MA: Do you have plans in mind for the future of the Annihilators, if this miniseries does well?
DnA: Oh yes. We’d love to do more!
MA: What else do you guys have coming up?
DnA: Lots of very cool stories and guests in Heroes for Hire (Fear Itself! Spider-Man! Surprise villains!). We also have another really exciting Marvel series coming up, but we’re not sure if we can mention it yet.
Matt Adler is flarking psyched for the Annihilators.